This week's cover story by Laura Reiley (Pages 4E-5E) has some terrific ideas for ways to get a head start on your New Year's Eve party menu. But if Dec. 31 rolls around and you still find yourself without a plan for the evening, whip up meatballs, an easy and festive finger food. Meatballs come together relatively quickly, can be kept hot in a bubbling sauce on the stove or in a slow cooker throughout the night and are endlessly customizable. Here, we have five ideas for meatballs using different kinds of ground meat, mix-ins and sauces. Consider making some of each. Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Classic Italian Meatballs
You could actually sub out any kind of ground meat for these meatballs, but using ground beef will yield the most classic results. To make, mix 2 pounds ground beef, 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 eggs, ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper in a large bowl with your hands. Combine until just formed, then roll mixture into 2-inch meatballs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the meatballs in batches and cook until browned well on all sides. Serve with marinara sauce. Recipe adapted from New York Times.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
I have to give a shout-out to my colleague Amy Hollyfield for bringing these meatballs to our annual company holiday potluck. They are a revelation. Infused with the same Buffalo flavor as chicken wings but much easier to eat (and easier to feel good about eating), these are made of ground chicken and simmered in a spicy sauce. To make the meatballs: Combine 1 pound ground chicken, 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder in a large bowl and stir until combined. Roll into about 24 meatballs, then place on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes in a 400-degree oven until browned. Now, you'll finish cooking the meatballs in either a slow cooker or a large saucepan set over low heat. Place meatballs in vessel, then add 3/4 cup Buffalo sauce (like Frank's) and stir gently to coat meatballs. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Drizzle with 1/4 cup blue cheese dressing and serve. Recipe adapted from damndelicious.net.
Asian Pork Meatballs
Ground pork is mixed with fresh ginger, garlic and scallions then brushed with a sweet and spicy glaze in these Asian-inspired meatballs. To make, beat 2 eggs plus 1 egg white in a large bowl, then add 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, 4 minced scallions, 3 cloves minced garlic, a 2-inch piece of grated fresh ginger, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Mix with your hands until combined, then shape the mixture into 18 meatballs. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Now make the sauce for your meatballs. Mix 1/2 cup hoisin sauce, 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl; set aside half the mixture for serving. Brush the meatballs with remaining mixture, then bake in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through. Recipe adapted from Food Network.
Because these meatballs use a leaner protein, turkey, we are adding some ricotta cheese to help them stay moist. To make, mix 1 large egg, ¼ finely chopped onion, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, 1 ½ pounds ground turkey, 5 ounces frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed), 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, ½ cup bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until just combined. Form mixture into meatballs, using about 1/4 cup worth of mixture. Place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray and brush with olive oil. Cook meatballs under broiler for about 15 to 18 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.
It's the sauce — a thick, creamy gravy — that makes a Swedish meatball a Swedish meatball, and it's surprisingly easy to create. This recipe uses two kinds of ground meat, pork and beef, for maximum flavor. To make the meatballs, add 1 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1 large egg, 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to a bowl and mix gently until combined. Form the mixture into small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 teaspoons olive oil. When oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches and cook until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and make the sauce. Pour excess oil out of pan, except for 1 tablespoon, then add 3 tablespoons flour and stir until flour is golden brown. Add 1 bay leaf, ¾ cup cream and 1 ½ cups low-sodium beef broth and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs back into the pan and cook until sauce thickens and meatballs are coated and cooked through. Recipe adapted from Associated Press.